Data project moves to Center for Public Integrity


By Center for Public Integrity

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The Center for Public Integrity will steward and grow a powerful tool that puts public records at the fingertips of journalists across the country, thanks to support from the Reva and David Logan Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Accountability Project, launched by the Investigative Reporting Workshop in 2019, is an innovative platform that allows journalists to search 1.8 billion public records and counting, as well as organize resulting data for analysis in reporting. It has been used in award-winning and impactful accountability journalism across the country.

Public Integrity, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organization that confronts inequality through investigative reporting, partners with hundreds of local news organizations across the country. That includes collaborative investigations, editing, training, mentorship and access to data sets and analyses that enable local journalists to expose inequity and hold powerful interests accountable.

“TAP will advance Public Integrity’s mission by giving our local news partners access to a deep reservoir of government data so they can hold the powerful to account and equip the public with the knowledge to drive change,” said Public Integrity CEO Paul Cheung.

TAP solves a problem for journalists: Searching across public data sets can be arduous, particularly on deadline. It also creates opportunity: Finding threads across campaign finance data, property records, business ownership and other sources can yield important stories about conflicts of interest, outsized influence and other issues that warrant deeper public scrutiny.

Seeing a need to streamline public data sets, the Investigative Reporting Workshop created TAP with the support of the Reva and David Logan Foundation to put much of that data in one place so journalists, researchers and others could search across otherwise siloed data.

Connections between IRW and Public Integrity run deep. Both were founded by Charles A. Lewis, and TAP was conceived by the late David Donald, a former data editor for both the Investigative Reporting Workshop and Public Integrity.

Jennifer LaFleur, now senior editor at Public Integrity, oversaw the creation and launch of the platform at IRW in 2019, along with lead developer Jacob Fenton, and will work to expand its use by local journalists.

“I’m thrilled that what began as an idea sketched out on a napkin over lunch has grown so tremendously,” said Lewis, now the emeritus executive editor of IRW. “And I couldn’t think of a better place for it to land than CPI.” 

TAP began with data related to money in politics and has added data on nonprofits, voters, business licensees and public employees. 

In his original proposal for the project, Donald stressed the need for data among accountability professionals. “The key is the link among databases that provide the connections that allow us to hold the powerful accountable for their decisions and actions,” he wrote.

Everyone who has contributed to TAP at IRW and now Public Integrity has worked to make his dream a reality, building it into a robust search site that now has more than 1.8 billion records.

“I’m so proud of the work that everyone involved with TAP has put in to make it a success,” LaFleur said. “I’m also grateful for the many partners who worked with us, most notably the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.”

At IRW, Kiernan Nicholls, Aarushi Sahejpal and a team of interns will continue to work on requesting, accessing, cleaning and uploading data.

TAP can be a powerful tool for gathering background information on individuals, organizations and addresses. For example,  searching a single name or address on the name search page will yield a list of hits for that name or address across every dataset in the collection. From there, you can start digging deeper.

TAP features a wide array of federal and state data including:

  • Campaign contributions, expenditures and lobbying data
  • Data on nonprofits nationwide
  • Government contracting
  • Public employees
  • Voter registration

Learn more about the TAP data collections here.

While much of the data is available without an account, some data requires a free logon, which you can request here.

Founded in 1989, the Center for Public Integrity is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country and is dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States.